Social Media From the Quiet Corner of the Room

When I was in college, I worked as a student assistant to a philosophy professor. It was a good gig for me – I was majoring in philosophy and hoped to teach it in college myself some day. It was good to get an inside look at things. One of the more striking memories of this professor wasn’t from the classroom or the department office. It was from a holiday party.

The party was the sort of party you’d expect for an academic department. Faculty were gracious in their inclusion of students, and there was a lot of give and take between those attending. But the philosophy professor for whom I worked spent much of his time standing by himself in the corner. He would talk amiably enough with anyone who approached him, but he also seemed quite comfortable by himself. I watched him (from my own corner) for much of the evening. Occasionally, he would pull a small spiral notebook and pen from his pocket, write something in the notebook, and then put both notebook and pen back in his pocket.

This memory came to mind as I was thinking about the blog that I’m attempting to write. I admit to mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I really want to interact with people – especially people I’ve known well but no longer see because we no longer live in the same place, but also people I have yet to meet. On the other hand, I’m comfortable standing by myself in the corner of life.

For a while, Facebook offered a nice compromise. I became friends with many people from my past. I enjoyed making the occasional post, but enjoyed even more learning bits and pieces about the lives of those I no longer saw from day to day. But I stopped posting there just over 6 years ago, thinking that I no longer wanted them to sell me to advertisers. If I had real courage behind my conviction, I would delete my account (to the extent that they allow such deletions); even though I no longer post, I still browsed the site occasionally to see what old friends are posting about their lives. But that’s less and less satisfying – when I go there these days, I find the ratio of signal to noise to be rather low.

And so I’m attempting to join the online world with a blog. I’m not at all optimistic that I’ll carry through with this. I’m much more comfortable in the corner, thinking my own thoughts, occasionally writing in my own little notebook, than I am putting myself out there where someone might stumble upon me. Others are more comfortable out in the middle of the room, boisterously joining in the conversation.

I’m realistic about this — I know that even though this is publicly available on the web, I might as well be writing notes in a small pocket notebook. But at least I’m at the party.